As much as I love horror movies, I think it’s fair to say that the genre as a whole has been lacking in the scare department for quite some time.
While October should be the best month of the year for horror fans, for the past few years it has been overrun with new installments in hackneyed franchises and bogged down by cliché-filled slasher flicks.
Buried, and possibly lost, in the midst of all the schlock is director and co-writer Scott Derrickson’s truly-terrifying film “Sinister.”
“Sinister” stars Ethan Hawke as Ellison Oswalt, a true-crime writer who in an attempt to get his career back on track moves his family to a rural town in Pennsylvania to begin working on a new book. After a mysterious box of taped murders mysteriously appears in the attic, Ellison quickly becomes indulged in his work and in doing so realizes that there is a horrific connection between the murder: they all involve a pagan deity named Bagul, who the pagans believed was the eater of children.
Surprisingly, Derrickson, whose previous credits include the remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” manages to make a genuinely scary movie that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Cowriter C. Robert Cargill, a former movie critic and blogger for “Aint it Cool News,” uses his knowledge of film to the best of his advantage, writing truly horrific, and often disturbing, situations that will terrify audiences. Although the film does not completely steer away from horror film clichés and the character of Ellison is very much the stereotypical overcurious character that searches for answers to questions he doesn’t want answers to. Surprisingly the character’s flaws make the film stronger and Cargill and Derrickson ultimately use him to drive home the film’s main point: That we are our own boogeyman and that oftentimes, we scare ourselves and put ourselves into horrific situations.
One of the film’s most impressive qualities is that it finds the perfect balance between pacing, timing, and scares. While there are quite a large number of “jump scares,” the timing and music leading up them is impeccable. While there comes a point where so often the films more frightening moments are a little bit predictable, Cargill and Darrickson manages to find a way to make them scary nevertheless, due mostly in part to the film’s sound design. Never have I seen a movie that assaults one’s sense of sound like “Sinister” does. Everything is magnified and misleading and even the minor scenes that can be a bit clichéd are still terrifying due to the sound cues.
The film’s only problem is that the murder tapes Ellison finds are over-the-top gruesome. I have quite a strong stomach for violence and gore, I’m a huge fan of the Saw franchise, but there were several points during the movie where I had to turn away from the screen.
While I personally didn’t mind this, in fact, I applaud the writers for it, it did seem a little bit unnecessary to continually show various snuff films seemingly without a purpose.
From the first time I saw the trailer for “Sinister,” I had a feeling it was going to be a genuinely horrifying movie. Fortunately, it does not disappoint. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I walked out of a movie theatre shaking ever so slightly and having been truly scared. Skip “Paranormal Activity 4” and check out “Sinister.”
It will actually scare you! 4 stars out of 5.